Free Speech or Censorship?

This story could end up being pivotal in terms of both free speech and censorship issues. The US government arrested and charged Javed Iqbal – an American businessman originally from Pakistan – for providing customers in New York with broadcasts from Al Manar (a “Hizbullah” television station in Lebanon). According to the prosecutor (Stephen A Miller), “The charge lurking in the background is material support for terrorism.” Mr. Stephens said he did not know of any other cases of people “accused of breaking US law by offering access to news outlets via satellite dish.”


Mr Iqbal was arrested under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) (pdf) as Al Manar was listed as a terrorist organization in March 2006. Al Manar was bombed by Israel on June 12, 2006. Al Manar is one of the 10 most watched Arab stations.

The IEEPA was first passed in 1977 (Wikipedia), but was amended by the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). However, I am not clear what that amendment actually was. One interesting piece in the original IEEPA is that it is to be used in cases of extraordinary threat (see below), and it is difficult to see how a satellite broadcast falls i into that category. This is particularly true when CNN showed Al Manar broadcasts as part of their news on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

(emphases are mine)
Sec. 1701. Unusual and extraordinary threat; declaration of national emergency; exercise of
Presidential authorities
(a) Any authority granted to the President by section 1702 of this title may be exercised to deal with any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States, if the President declares a national emergency with respect to such threat.

(b) The authorities granted to the President by section 1702 of this title may only be exercised to deal with an unusual and extraordinary threat with respect to which a national emergency has been declared for purposes of this chapter and may not be exercised for any other purpose. Any exercise of such authorities to deal with any new threat shall be based on a new declaration of national emergency which must be with respect to such threat.

The issue of national emergency goes back to an old concern of mine. President Bush declared a national state of emergency on 9/11/01, and to the best of my knowledge, that declaration has never been lifted.

I predict that this case will throw a lot of flags if it proceeds. It looks to be a test case by the government. It seems a stretch to me to say that providing satellite access is “materially supporting terrorism.” This smacks of censorship, though I am not clear that moneys from Al Manar (a Lebanese television station) directly benefits Hizbullah.

——-
NY Times, 8/26/06, Rashbaum. Law Put to Unusual Use in Hezbollah TV Case, Some Legal Experts Say

8/26/06, Taipei Times. Satellite TV provider arrested for offering Hezbollah’s TV channel

8/24/06 ACLU. Prosecution of TV Provider Raises Free Speech Questions, NYCLU Says

Reuters, 8/25/06. New Yorker arrested for broadcasting al-Manar

YNet, Goldman, 8/24/06. War soars al-Manar popularity

Wikipedia. International Emergency Economic Powers Act

Source Watch. International Emergency Economic Powers Act

US Code. International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”) pdf

US Code. U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism)

FEAR Foundation Journal, Vol. 1 No. 1, Fall 2003. Expansion of forfeiture powers under the USA PATRIOT Act

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Published in: on 08/28/2006 at 1:18 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

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